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Permaculture in the Desert: What is Permaculture?

Learn how to use permaculture in the Sonoran Desert.

April 24, 2017

Permaculture in the Desert

I want to start a conversation about permaculture theory and how it applies to us in the Sonoran Desert. I want this to be a resource for the entire community. Not everyone can afford to attend a Permaculture Design Course. This reality shouldn’t preclude people accessing and learning about permaculture, because it should be for everyone. This lack of access has created a misunderstanding about what permaculture is. To those on the periphery, it’s just another gardening method, one choice in a plethora of gardening strategies, but they’re totally missing the fact that it’s a revolutionary lifestyle. For example, when most backyard growers start a hot compost pile they use manure from livestock. Often going through great pains to truck in salty manure for composting purposes. When permaculturist’s start a hot compost pile we use our own manure. Our humanure amends garden beds that grow vegetables and fruits. We then eat that food! Composting your own feces, growing food with it, and finally eating it is a revolutionary act of the first degree. Permaculture is a revolutionary movement and lifestyle that radically roots us in nature. It is about reconnecting with the natural world and becoming a part of it. An underlying goal of the permaculture movement is to shift how we, as human beings, interact with the natural ecosystems we inhabit. It is about the land and how we use it.

The term permaculture comes from coupling the words permanent and agriculture. It’s a design philosophy that’s cross disciplinary and includes agriculture, architecture, biology, ecology, economics, and community design. The basic idea is to create regenerative systems that provide their own needs and recycle their waste. Permaculturists often look to the natural structure of a living forest to glean lessons—this is our learning lab. By studying how a forest regenerates itself we can mimic the underlying system that creates the conditions for life to thrive in. What are the underlying mechanisms that a forest uses to spread itself? For example, birds are key players in spreading seeds and through their natural behavior are full time planters of edible shrubs, bushes, and trees. The inverse is also true. For example, if we let livestock, who are being fed invasive weeds, graze public lands then they too are full time planters, but of species that weaken the regenerative mechanisms of the ecosystem. Human beings, because of our unique ability to create technology, can greatly enhance, or destroy, the natural regenerative patterns of a local ecosystem. How we practice agriculture in the Sonoran Desert matters.
This material can be quite dense. I will break up key concepts into a series of blog posts to make the information more digestible to readers like you. When appropriate, I will include photo and video media to help people truly understand these permaculture concepts. A complement to this blog will be my Permaculture Classroom Vlog series on my YouTube Channel. I can easily cover more material in greater detail via the video format. This blog will cover the basics of permaculture theory, and the Permaculture Classroom Vlog will complement these posts with more in-depth information. If there is something you would like to see covered in the blog or in the vlog, please contact me. I want these to be community resources and make this information accessible to everybody.

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